One of the many reasons I find the border region so fascinating is that it represents the juncture point of my own mixed identity. My father’s ancestors come from somewhere in Europe, but my mother was born and raised in the rural highlands of Peru. Much of my life-long interest in traveling through Latin America, learning Spanish and studying the region’s history has come from my own attempt to balance out the fact that I grew up in a mostly white, middle-class community.
So I was excited to pick up the book “Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines,” (Washington Square Press, 2008) by Stephanie Elizondo Griest, who writes about her travels through Mexico as part of her own personal journey to reconnect with her roots. There are some similarities: Stephanie is half-Hispanic, has journalistic curiousity and an adventurous spirit. When she encounters a newspaper headline that says “Zapatistas Declare Red Alert,” her reaction to go there makes absolute sense to me: “I don’t know what that means, but it sounds exciting.”
“Mexican Enough,” is a fast-paced trip, full of characters who are also struggling to answer some of her own questions, whether they are members of Mexico’s indigenous communities or young gays in the city. Stephanie paints a vivid picture of the people she meets, but there is little time for her to form roots. (This is apparently due to abbreviating her stay to accept a fellowship). Nonetheless, I enjoyed revisiting parts of Mexico with her and I found myself nodding my head in understanding as she makes cultural gaffes and struggles with the question of what it means to be Mexican/Hispanic/Latino. Is it something that is defined at birth or that can be learned? Her final epiphany says it all, when she equates “the schizophrenia of being bi-racial, of straddling two worlds and belonging to neither,” as helping her understand what it must mean to be Mexican.
You can read a review of the book that appeared in The Los Angeles Times.
Screenshot from Amazon.com